Martin O’Neill has gone on record today saying ’I am excited to see how Manchester City do. Its like the premier league reinvented’.
Now this seems to have rubbed a few fans up the wrong way, almost taking it as an admission of defeat before the season has even started. But is our esteemed manager being rather clever? He mentions it is like seeing the Chelsea monster creation all over again.
When Chelsea were bought by money bags Roman, he collected a world class team; Darth Kenyon, Jose Mourinho and a wealth of world class players. It worked. But what it also did was disrupt the top of the table and fragment it slightly so that Everton could achieve Champions League football, albeit for one season.
Now we see Manchester City. They have inherited a Kenyon type figure and a manager but they don’t have the same sort of track record as there famous counterparts. Manchester City have Gary Cook in the Kenyon role and Mark Hughes in the Mourinho role.
It is the subject of Hughes as manager that I think will hinder them in the long run. He has no top club experience, no experience with big players and if he fails to win games in the first half of the season it will be ‘bye bye’.
However, I do think they will complete at the higher end of the table. Is this bad? Should we be scared? Yes, we should but not as much as some others. Allow me to explain.
If you are a top four club in England, you have a wage bill and infrastructure that commands top money and you need to be bringing in top money to balance the books. Without the top money that Champions League football generates you are facing financial ruin.
If Manchester City gatecrash the top four then one of the current top four will be in serious trouble. One of those teams will lose something in the region of £40mn in turnover. That is a massive amount and could prove decisive. The team that drops out would need to sell some of their top players to survive and thus weaken their team for the next season.
Now consider that Manchester City will improve, we assume that Spurs will do better this season, Everton and Fulham will be strong. We all assume this could mean the Villa are in danger of missing out on Europe next season. And yes we could, but what it will also mean is that the likes of Spurs will be taking points off the big four or five teams.
This will hopefully see that gap between them and the rest reduce. Multiply this by the number of clubs who we think will do well this season and the gap vanishes. The league becomes a true league again.
Now, what we need is for Martin O'Neill to go out and bring in five or six very good players who all strengthen our starting line up. Bring in the strong back line, add some flair and get us a twenty-goal a season striker. I think he will and he may even believe that European football is more achievable this year because of the events taking place at Eastlands.
I think this is what he is intimating in his interview. If our thoughts on Spurs, Everton and Man City, that they all steal more points from the better teams, turns out to be true, then we might even see a very low total points total for the title, the top four and top six finishes.
We will be in there fighting for these positions because maybe this year is just about taking stock and seeing what happens at the very top. A top six finish would be a good achievement and should form a solid platform to push on next season.
Now fast forward a year and the top four reads Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal. Liverpool miss out on the top four and they enter a phase the papers tag 'financial meltdown'. Top earners Gerrard and Torres will leave. Sir Alex hangs up his boots at United and Arsenal continue to not spend big money. Would there be an opening?
Would the monopoly finally be broken from a source that we never saw coming? The truth is we wont know until next season but one thing is for sure and that is the top four will be more worried about Man City than us and for owners like Gillett and Hicks at Liverpool I would not be surprised if the sale sign goes up if things are not going to well by Christmas, if it isn't privately already.
Now, if we strengthen properly and manage to take points off our nearest rivals then we can achieve European football this season, without doubt. This season could see the end of the big four as we know it and a return to a competitive league. Next season, who knows, but I hold some hope.
Perhaps the Man City thing is not all bad and that is this point, I believe, that Martin O'Neill is trying to get across, albeit in his own secret code.